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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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  • Rising Inequality Hinders Upward Mobility « Consider the Evidence

    Indeed it does, and for that sorry state of affairs we can thank the Republican party aided by some spineless Democrats.


  • Evolution | Praying for health | Economist.com
    SOME people, notably Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford University, regard religion as a disease. It spreads, they suggest, like a virus, except that the “viruses” are similar to those infecting computers—bits of cultural software that take over the hardware of the brain and make it do irrational things.

    Corey Fincher, of the University of New Mexico, has a different hypothesis for the origin of religious diversity. He thinks not that religions are like disease but that they are responses to disease—or, rather, to the threat of disease. If he is right, then people who believe that their religion protects them from harm may be correct, although the protection is of a different sort from the supernatural one they perceive.


  • fiction and political fact - bookforum.com / in print
    The political novel has always been an odd hybrid of fact and fiction. One of the genre’s originators, Benjamin Disraeli, the author of Coningsby (1844), was also one of the few writers who had genuine inside knowledge of the political world. But political novels usually deal with more than the intrigues of cabinet ministers and young men on the make. The boundaries of this genre are very hard to delimit. For some critics, the political novel is precisely the kind of book Disraeli, Trollope, and Henry Adams passed on to a few modern writers like Gore Vidal in Washington, D.C., Burr, Lincoln, and 1876: a novel focused, often satirically, sometimes historically, on the machinations of the political class—the men, usually men, with their hands on the levers of power. At the other extreme, postmodern theorists like Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious (1981) insist that the genre has no meaning, since “everything is ‘in the last analysis’ political.” To suggest that some works are political while others are not, Jameson says, is “a symptom and a reinforcement of the reification and privatization of contemporary life.”

    What, you've never read Gore Vidal's Burr you really ought to, it's a great read.

  • A Second Life for literature | Books | guardian.co.uk hmm

  • Language Log » Prohibiting non-arbitrary trademarks

  • Body Matters - Telegraph I thought the Telegraph was a real paper, does Murdoch own it? I never would have believed that I would find such rubbish in this paper.


 

Comments

Re: body matters..

I was a little surprised to find such an innocuous article among your usual fray. Disregarding specific pill prescriptions it seems like "pay attention to what goes into your body food-wise"- something modern medicine seems rather disinclined to talk about. I think you're really nitpicking there.

It's a bit like the atheism vs religion issue. The problem lies mainly with the premise that it is possible or even worthwhile to convince others of your position(either one). Hardcore atheists repulse me just as much as hardcore religious nuts. Now I can agree that rules by which we can govern people's actions within a working society would best be those resting on law and logic but that doesn't require that individuals form their entire worldview from that. Who cares past those extents what people think? The idea that convincing others to only think logically otherwise it would cause repercussions down the line may be an astute observation but is nothing more than an inherent desire to control the thought process of others in its entirety. That's a farce and not worthy of anyone's time. So while I can wholeheartedly agree on the use of logic within a large but limited realm of human life, to think it's the only tool we have is kinda silly. The issue of religions is others telling me how to live my life and what to believe.

So sure, give people the tool of logic but you can't seriously expect to enforce it every minute of a person's life.

As for the food article, let people ascertain for themselves if something works or not. Give them the ability to reason things through but after that let them do the best they can. You can't protect everyone. And while I do not subscribe to any specific health regimen (given how they change all the time..even with science) I don't begrudge anyone from learning what works for them (I know from my own experience of the inadequacies and pros of modern medicine) - even if it cost them a pretty penny.

The article just seems so not Normworthy..:)

http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/08/nasty_attack_ad_hits_jewish_de.php

Yall see this attack ad that goes after a sitting congressman for opposing prayer in school? And attacks him for either being white or Jewish, to boot.

Their hypothesis is that in places where disease is rampant, it behoves groups not to mix with one another more than is strictly necessary, in order to reduce the risk of contagion. They therefore predict that patterns of behaviour which promote group exclusivity will be stronger in disease-ridden areas. Since religious differences are certainly in that category, they specifically predict that the number of different religions in a place will vary with the disease load. Which is, as they report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the case.

OK, first, this is not a robust hypothesis. Europe was unified around a single religious doctrine until the reformation. Given the many plagues in early European history prior to the advent of modern medicine, the Reformation should have happen hundreds of years earlier if the proliferation of religious groups is strongly correlated with widespread disease. (Note also that living in geographical proximity, or in frequent contact, had little or no bearing on the fact that most of Europe shared the same religion).

The range [of average religions per country]...is enormous—from 3 to 643. Côte d’Ivoire, for example, has 76 while Norway has 13, and Brazil has 159 while Canada has 15. They then did the same thing for the number of parasitic diseases found in each country. The average here was 200, with a range from 178 to 248.

Forgive me, but might not climate, diet, hygiene, and other cultural rituals play a stronger role here (even if some of those practices later become codified as explicit religious doctrines). And what about independent variables such as the technological development of vaccines in some countries but not others? Did they constrain for these?

But using accepted definitions of uniqueness, exclusivity, autonomy and superiority to other religions

There are accepted definitions of 'superiority to other religions'?

This presupposes a very strong view of "exclusivity" and religion's power to motivate it. Perhaps it is true that monotheistic religions are "exclusive" in a strong sense--if there is only one god, either you believe in him or you don't. But the Greek and Romans notoriously tended not to take religious differences very seriously when encountering a foreign group, nor did it prevent them from mixing and trading with them, and that seems to have been the standard attitude in the ancient world. Indeed, one of the reasons for the ancient Roman were prejudiced against Jews and early Christians was their dogmatic intolerance toward other religious traditions.

Jib, I disagree.

It surely would be nice for me if people around me (especially those whom I care about) weren't prone to such nonsense like that in the article, but besides that, many times the danger of such "alternative" "medicine" (double-quote because in most cases it's neither alternative nor medicine) is more real and more immediate than religion's usual crap. And both have the same roots of ignorance and lack of critical thinking.

Many people opt for such "alternatives" while neglecting proper medical care, for example, sometimes with horrendous consequences which could have been avoided relatively easy with known proven medical care. State money also goes into this kind of crap in many countries, and if people in general were more aware of it, it could be used for proper medical and scientific research and education. It's just a waste for everyone in a society when a large enough group of people live in ignorance and credulity, no matter how comfortable they might make them feel.

This crap of alt-meds and other pseudosciences and faiths should be called out as much as possible, and people encouraged as much as possible to think critically about everything. It affects everybody.

And it's not the job of the medical establishment to go out of their way to tell people what's healthy or not, the information is readily available and very easy to find. Conversely, it is for the scammer's benefit spouting what every idiot knows that eating well and exercising will make you healthier, while selling you a bunch of pills which at best, are placebos, at worst, who knows (really, nobody knows cause those aren't properly tested).

Andyo,

While I do not condone any particular pseudoscience I can personally attest to the shortcomings of modern medicine and at that point as far as I'm concerned it's a free for all provided you can take responsibility for your actions. I would disagree that information on perfectly healthy behaviour is either readily available or so consistent above and beyond a few simple things. Science is constantly bringing up new evidence that once considered bad is now good and vice versa. So to accept anyone's view about what is or isn't healthy comes with an inherent risk.

So the point is not whether alternative medicine is good or bad but whether an individual has the capacity to evaluate it and its mainstream counterpart and then make an informed decision.

To think that by choosing mainstream medicine you can avoid damaging your health and by choosing alternative medicine you are somehow doomed to suffer (either health or monetarily) is to be naive.

When you take an unknown route home you assume a certain risk and uncertainty about reaching home. You can reason as much as you like but your arrival home is never guaranteed. Logic isn't foolproof in life and while we need it as individuals it remains a mental tool and nothing more. Rather than restricting the world to protect the people - give people the ability to make informed decisions (that doesn't mean 100% logic). That is the most you can ever do, if even that. To desire anything else is to attempt to control others.

Regarding...

fiction and political fact - bookforum.com / in print

Sorry. Couldn't get through the winded article at bookforum.com.

Boring.

But may I add some 2cents all the same? For one, I'm a big fan of Gore Vidal. The US should simply tell children that if they read his "Empire" novels then they can skip the pre-programmed, turn-me-stupid curriculum called "history class" offered in so-called public education. (I heard Vidal once say that he wrote those novels because of his disgust towards American's lack of knowledge of their own history.) Then kids could spend some more time on classes regarding etiquette, manners and behavior. Now wouldn't that be just great?

Wait. Am I the only one out there hoping that someday the coastal areas of the United Mistakes of America will offer more than just filth, wet-t-shirt contests and drunks. (BTW, lower the damn drinking age so people can grow up!) Of course, what am I saying? I had some of my best f*#?s on some of those beaches. And I pride myself on whoring around AND being respectful to others. Oh, the seventies were great...

Anyway.

I always thought Vidal's books were historical novels. In fact, until this post I've never even given a "political novel" a second thought. So many books to read, so little time.

Rant on.

-tgs-

Sorry if I offended anyone with mentioning some my memories of US beaches - which I really miss, btw.

Regarding...

fiction and political fact - bookforum.com / in print

Sorry. Couldn't get through the winded article at bookforum.com.

Boring.

But may I add some 2cents all the same? For one, I'm a big fan of Gore Vidal. The US should simply tell children that if they read his "Empire" novels then they can skip the pre-programmed, turn-me-stupid curriculum called "history class" offered in so-called public education. (I heard Vidal once say that he wrote those novels because of his disgust towards American's lack of knowledge of their own history.) Then kids could spend some more time on classes regarding etiquette, manners and behavior. Now wouldn't that be just great?

Wait. Am I the only one out there hoping that someday the coastal areas of the United Mistakes of America will offer more than just filth, wet-t-shirt contests and drunks. (BTW, lower the damn drinking age so people can grow up!) Of course, what am I saying? I had some of my best f*#?s on some of those beaches. And I pride myself on whoring around AND being respectful to others. Oh, the seventies were great...

Anyway.

I always thought Vidal's books were historical novels. In fact, until this post I've never even given a "political novel" a second thought. So many books to read, so little time.

Rant on.

-tgs-

Sorry if I offended anyone with mentioning some my memories of US beaches - which I really miss, btw.

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